It isn't easy to maintain a consistent and comfortable temperature inside your home. HVAC maintenance can seem complicated, but there's a lot you can do to keep your system in good working order. There are some common problems that can arise, and one is that your system isn't receiving an adequate amount of return air. This can be caused by a number of things, but it's most often a result of flaws in your ductwork. Read on if you want to find out more about the symptoms of not getting enough return air and how to resolve the issue.

What are the symptoms of not getting enough return air?

When your HVAC system doesn't receive enough return air, it won't be able to heat or cool your home correctly. That's why it's essential to keep an eye out for the symptoms of not enough return air. Several red flags indicate flaws in your ducts that could be causing the lack of return air. One obvious indicator is when your system is making unusual or excessive noise. Efficient air movement tends to be quiet, so high-pitched whining or whistling noises are usually the results of poorly sealed junctions.

Some estimates suggest as much as 20 percent of heated or cooled air can escape through cracks in ductwork. If your heating bills are suspiciously high, that may be caused by undersized return ducts leading to your HVAC unit or undersized supply ducts in living spaces. Hot and cold spots in your home are another telltale sign of restricted airflow or not getting enough return air. Eventually, operating inefficiently can lead to an increased incidence of breakdowns.

The best way to avoid breakdowns is to keep up with preventive maintenance. You should have a technician inspect the system on an annual basis. Filters should be changed at least once every 90 days, though many experts recommend monthly filter changes if you want your system to provide peak performance. The average life span of an HVAC system is between 10 and 15 years, so you should start looking into replacements if your system is over a decade old.

How else can you improve air quality at home?

You might be surprised by how much of a difference simple lifestyle adjustments can make. Good indoor hygiene is necessary if you want to improve the quality of your air. You should be vacuuming at least once or twice a week, preferably with a HEPA filter vacuum. Items that trap dirt and allergens, like your drapes and bedding, should be laundered often. If you're still experiencing problems with indoor contaminants, invest in air purifiers for high-traffic or frequently used rooms like the bedroom, kitchen, and living room.

The CDC has stressed the importance of proper home ventilation due to the risks posed by the continued spread of COVID-19. Open your doors and windows to let in fresh air from outside when you can. Fans will help move virus particles from inside the home to the outside. A portable air cleaner is a wise investment for anyone concerned about COVID-19, as it can trap particles that could be inhaled while talking, coughing, or sneezing.

No one wants to experience difficulties with their HVAC system, but the good news is that most are simple to address once you identify the problem. A lack of return air will inevitably affect your HVAC's ability to provide adequate heating and cooling at home, which is why it should be addressed immediately. Loud noises, elevated energy costs, and uneven heat distribution are warning signs you should be aware of. Ventilation and protecting your indoor air quality are more essential than ever because of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, so it's worthwhile to invest in ensuring your HVAC system is in good working order.

Here are some symptoms of not enough return air:

Temperature differences

In the summer, rooms closer to the central unit may be more relaxed, while rooms farther away may be warmer. In the winter, rooms farther from the furnace may be too cool.

Duct leakage

If the return ductwork has leaks, the AC system won't pull in enough air to cool the home.

Low refrigerant levels

If the AC has low refrigerant levels, it can't release warm air into cold air. The evaporator or condenser coils may freeze, which can cause an aircon leak.

Dirty coils

Dirty coils or blowers can reduce airflow through the air handler. This can cause air to die off in the ducts before reaching the vents.

Vents blockage

If the vent cover is blocked, broken, or bent, it can cause inconsistent airflow. Broken covers may also block the return air vents.

Clogged filters

A clogged filter prevents enough air from getting into the engine. This can cause the engine to run less efficiently.

Abnormally low humidity

Inadequate ventilation can affect indoor humidity levels. Too dry air can cause discomfort, including dry skin, itchy eyes, sore throat, and sinus irritation.